Yamaha FZ-09 | DOIN’ TIME

A reflash for the ECU and the second round of suspension updates from the MC Garage.

WRIST: Ari Henning
MSRP (2014): $7,990
MILES: 4,025
MPG: 36
MODS: Stoltec Moto fork rebuild, Penske shock, ECU re-reflash

My previous efforts to improve the FZ-09 's suspension—adding stiffer fork springs and adapting a Kawasaki ZX-6R shock—were dirt cheap but netted only minor improvements. Worse, though, they introduced new problems. I'm glad I tried that avenue, but it's on to stage two and some purpose-built parts from Nick Stolten at Stoltec Moto ( stoltecmoto.com ).

When I initially stated that I wanted to fix the FZ-09’s suspension, I received a number of comments from members of the FZ09.org web forum imploring me to “talk to Nick.” Nick is a degreed mechanical engineer and self-proclaimed tuner who occupies his spare time improving bikes he likes, and the latest bike to attract his attention is Yamaha’s FZ-09. Nick worked with GP Suspension to develop a fork kit for the FZ-09 that includes new compression and rebound pistons and custom valving. The service is quite affordable—just $250 if you have your own springs (as I did) and are willing to disassemble the right fork leg and send in just the cartridge.

With the shock’s reservoir lashed to the subframe, the adjusters are all easily accessible. Spring preload is easy to adjust thanks to a lower collar that spins on roller bearings.

For the back of the bike, I ordered one of the Double Clicker shocks that Nick developed in conjuction with Penske. It offers adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping, and ride height. At $975, the shock is the priciest part I’ve thrown at the FZ-09 thus far, but it’s a good value considering it is a fully adjustable, custom-sprung and -valved item.

After installing the shock, bolting the fork back together with the 5-weight Silkolene oil Nick provided, and setting sag and baseline damping front and rear, I was ready to ride. But then I received a call from the guys at Flash-Tune (ftecu.com) saying they had an ECU update aimed at smoothing the FZ-09’s throttle response at low rpm/small throttle openings—exactly the area where I’d felt Flash-Tune’s initial ECU reflash didn’t go far enough.

From the beginning the FZ-09’s chassis and throttle response have been at odds with each other: Abrupt fueling causes the chassis to pitch, and a lolling chassis makes it nearly impossible to maintain the perfectly smooth throttle inputs that the finicky ride-by-wire system demands. I was eager to give the updated chassis a fighting chance, so I postponed my test ride and took the bike by Flash-Tune to have the new software loaded.

Then it was off to the Santa Monica Mountains for some actual testing. I took the Pacific Coast Highway north and dove inland at Latigo Canyon Road, the area’s twistiest and most challenging route. When I emerged at the top, I was smiling! This latest ECU reflash makes throttle response a lot smoother (I even switched over to the more aggressive “A” engine mode), and the chassis is finally up to handling what that fantastic 847cc triple dishes out. With appropriate springs and damping, the FZ-09’s fore/aft movements on the brakes and gas are more controlled and less severe, and in corners the bike is more stable and tracks well, though there is some vagueness to the front end at full lean that I’ll work to tune out. The FZ-09 is a bucking bronco no more!

The bike’s day-to-day street manners are better as well. Throttle response is completely civil around town, and while the suspension is decidedly firm, it’s not stiff. In fact, it’s smoother over hard-edged bumps than the stock stuff was. That’s what the right combination of springs and damping will get you.

With the throttle and suspension behaving properly, I’m beginning to experience the fun and performance that I knew this bike could offer. Now that the bike’s major issues have been ironed out I’m going to a) ride the bike a lot more, and b) allow myself to continue refining the FZ-09’s appearance. This bike is shaping up nicely, but I’m a tinkerer at heart and eager to see what further improvements can be made.

With the shock’s reservoir lashed to the subframe, the adjusters are all easily accessible. Spring preload is easy to adjust thanks to a lower collar that spins on roller bearings.